Saturday, November 8, 2014

How to build a hobbit house

Building a hobbit house requires hobbit sense – work with nature, adapt to local conditions and belong to a community. The currency of construction is barter, recycle and goodwill. Here are some tips to help you on your journey to handcrafting a dream into reality. .Instead of orientating the building due south, have the door face east. This allows the south-facing wall with its large windows to maximize passive solar heat and light. •The sub-soil provides insulation and structural strength, the bones of the building are a frame of massive logs, these support the roof and walls. •Earth bag construction works because the bags and dirt are free, the inherent structural strength and there are no time constraints. That said, they weigh up to 110 lbs. and the pounder comes in at 38 lbs – mucho oats and quinoa! •The sun powers the lights and the dead trees the heat. • The living roof and walls moderate the temperature and grow food. • The building is twenty-foot wide and eight-feet high. The peak is two feet higher than the external wall. Hobbits follow the laws of nature. It is essential to understand the dynamics of structural stress, water management and gravity – the glue of the universe. My dream did not come with a blueprint, there are times when you have to stop and think; for example, the dirt bags are hard to pound rigid when the walls are over five-feet high. I switched to straw bale construction for the remaining two feet. Instead of doing standard straw bale construction, I double bagged straw into used plastic wood shavings bags. The bags were sandwiched between tight twelve-gauge wire. Let the ground be your engineer, excavate in autumn and build the following spring. If there are water problems, they will then be obvious – it is hard to attain satori with soggy socks. Read the land and the plants for the best site. Water helps to break up bedrock for the post-holes. Nails partially hammered into the posts anchor the cement when setting the posts. The radial logs that connected the outer nine posts to the center are lowered into position with a backhoe. Twelve-inch nails fasten the beams to the posts. The concave wall and twenty-inch wide hard bags knitted together with re-bar transform the structure into one solid unit. The pounder was a hockey stick set in concrete to form an eight by twelve-inch cylinder; a sledgehammer packs the upper layers. The top two-feet of the wall is built with straw stuffed into plastic shavings bags. Wedge the bags tightly in place and then secure them between two strands of wire, one on the inside and one on the outside of the wall. Clinch the wires tightly together with baler twine in two places equidistant apart. The roof has five layers. First, the nine radial 10” beams connecting the outer nine posts to the center post, then cedar poles form a lattice like a spider’s web over the beams. Oak planks, recycled from a paddock fence, are nailed to the poles and completely cover the roof. Two old farm tarps, a trampoline deck and an inflatable raft soften the dips and spikes. These are then cover with a heavy-duty industrial tarp. Six inches of hay protects this tarp from the timber frame (split cedar rails) that holds it in place. The timber frame consists of an outer ring connected to an inner ring. The roof is then covered with 18” of ‘black gold’ worm castings compost, this anchors the timber frame the same way a ‘dead man’ secures a retaining wall. The roof overhang and the exterior tarps provide added protection from moisture. The walls are back-filled with dirt and the site reverts to natural landscape. Drainage pipe is buried below grade around the outside and then back-filled with rock. Stakes and wire mesh anchor the sod to the front side of the building. The interior will be parged with a breathable mortar mix next spring. Oh, one final point – this is of course, a hen house. It is perfect for raising chicks. The temperature is stable and it could withstand rampaging woolly mammoths never mind a marauding fox. It cost $65 to build and that is reasonable for a backyard chicken operation.

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